Monday, June 01, 2020

Lamenting Injustice and Those Who Have Died

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The Chapel has been lamenting the many deaths from COVID-19 as well as the particular deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others. Read some of our recent laments, prayers, reflections, and messages:

Sunday, June 28

The Rev. Dr. Carol Gregg, pastor for the Congregation at Duke Chapel, offered these prayers as part of the Prayers of the People during our Sunday morning worship service:

“O Word of God incarnate, help us to listen and learn. Open our ears to hear what you would have us hear. Remind us to remain silent long enough to gain understanding. Keep us from talking over those who have been too long silenced.”

Watch the full Prayers and the People.

Wednesday, June 24

In the context of the ongoing struggle against racism in the United States, the Chapel is hosting an online viewing of the movie Just Mercy followed by an online discussion on Wednesday, June 24, from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. The film tells the true story of a man sentenced to death in Alabama in the 1980s whose claim of innocence is taken up by the (then) young lawyer Bryan Stevenson. It is based on Stevenson’s memoir of the same title. The conversation following the viewing will focus on the film, experiences participants would like to share, and the legacy of anti-black racism in the United States and in faith communities. This online event is free. To receive a Zoom link to participate in the film viewing and discussion, please email the Chapel’s Community Minister Rev. Breana van Velzen at

Friday, June 19

As Americans around the country celebrate the end of American slavery on Juneteenth, Duke President Vincent E. Price is asking the university to use the day as a moment of reflection on racism and as a starting point to do hard work to eliminate systems of inequality in the country and within the university.

Read more.

Friday, June 19

The Chapel is sharing an invitation to participate in a virtual Solidarity Sing for Juneteenth on Friday, June 16, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. From wherever you are, you are invited to sing, play, or speak the three stanzas of James Weldon Johnson’s and John Rosamond Johnson’s hymn-anthem “Lift Every Voice And Sing.” The online event is being organized by a number of national music organizations and aims to “lift every voice, every instrument, and every heart to raise the collective global consciousness and demand real societal change” around issues of white supremacy and racial violence.

Click here for more background and links to the music.

Tuesday, June 16

A university online event, Living While Black, will present Black faculty, staff and students speaking from their personal experiences and discussing the impact of racism and racist policies and structures. The university community is invited to the event, which will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 16. Learn more and register.

Sunday, June 14

The Rev. Bruce Puckett, assistant dean of the Chapel, offered these prayers as part of the Prayers of the People during our Sunday morning worship service:

“Good and gracious God, Provide today for all who have had the forces of death arrayed against them. Lead our nation out of the death-dark valley that is racism in all its overt and covert forms. Lord in your mercy."

“Tending Savior, Uphold all who knowingly expose themselves to risk for the sake of others and the sake of your good ways. Strengthen those who continue to serve our communities in the time of pandemic. Lord in your mercy.”

Watch the full Prayers of the People.

Friday, June 12

In an extended interview with the Working@Duke news site, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery and Kimberly Hewitt, Duke’s vice president for the Office for Institutional Equity, discuss the ongoing history of structural and sustained racism and the implications for Duke. Watch the conversation:

Sunday, June 7

The Rev. Kathryn Lester-Bacon, director of Religious Life at the Chapel, offered these prayers as part of the Prayers of the People during our Sunday morning worship service:

“Almighty God, we pray that we might listen and value the voices and bodies of your brown and black beloved children, humans shaped in your image, nurtured by your love, filled with your holy breath—yet crushed by our systemic, social instruments of white comfort, convenience, and control.”

Watch the full Prayers of the People.

Thursday, June 4

Writing in The News & Observer, Chapel Minister Rev. Joshua Lazard says messages from religious leaders must relate to protests against police brutality, anti-blackness, and the evils of capitalism.

“As this nation navigates the next moment, it is abundantly clear that in order to form a more perfect union, we, the people, need our religious institutions to be intact and report for duty,” Rev. Lazard writes. “Religious institutions have the power to do what policy cannot: change the hearts and minds of its citizens.”

Read the op-ed.

Monday, June 1

The Chapel’s assistant dean, the Rev. Bruce Puckett, offers this message today:

"As a people committed to the all-inclusive love of God, Duke Chapel stands for justice, community, hope, creativity, and compassion, by which we love our neighbors. We lament alongside our black and brown siblings who are beset by racial oppression and violence at this time. We mourn with you, and we mourn our complicity in systemic racism. As those who stand for justice, we stand with all those who seek justice for George Floyd and the many others who have lost their lives as a result of racial injustice.

"We join our voice with the many who condemn his killing and the injustices regularly faced by communities of color in the United States. As those who stand for justice, we stand with all who are seeking racial justice in cities across the United States. In standing for justice, we stand against all forms of racism and inequity, both in personal and systemic forms. In standing for justice, we stand with the oppressed and marginalized of our society and world. And in standing for justice, we stand for peace, committed to the work of transformation required in our individual and communal lives.

"As people of faith, we are committed to using our resources for promoting justice, community, hope, creativity, and compassion at Duke, in Durham, and throughout the world. We lament the history of racial injustice, oppression, and violence that persists among and in us. Ultimately, our lament is an act of hope because in lament we pray to the God of justice and truth, who is at work to make all things new.
"We lament with the families of every victim of violence. Our hearts cry out to God.
"We call our communities to join in our lament, in word and deed, and to allow the work of transformation to propel us more fully into a world filled with God’s all-inclusive love."

Monday, June 1

Today we join with faith leaders, civic leaders, and many other people around the country in a #DayOfMourning to lament the more than 100,000 fellow citizens who have died this year from COVID-19. The leaders of this effort describe the mourning in this way:

“We will ask God to help heal our land with a moment of mourning and honoring those many who have died, often without their loved ones around them. We come together both to weep and to rejoice for those lives which have been lost. We shall mourn the loss of so many Americans, many known only to families and friends, coworkers and neighbors. We will mourn family members and friends whom we loved; worked and worshipped with; ate, played, and prayed with; important members of our communities, some who were on the front lines of caring for and serving others; and those we passed on the street with a smile and nod. By God’s grace, we will mourn with families who have not been able to memorialize, mourn, or properly bury their COVID dead.”
Read, and share, the full lament on the Sojourners’s website.

Sunday, May 31

The Rev. Dr. Carol Gregg, pastor for the Congregation at Duke Chapel, offered these prayers as part of the Prayers of the People during our Sunday morning worship service:
“We grieve the death of one of our citizens at the hands of police, as well as those who have gone before him, and lament the pain of racism that is part of our society. Be our wise guide in how we are to move forward. Comfort those who are hurt and grieving. Help us to turn anger into a constructive movement for justice.”
“We are also grieved by the milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. We lament the great loss of life and the anxious uncertainty that permeates our world. Direct our leaders as they make decisions about re-opening and grant your peace to those who mourn loved ones.”
Watch the full Prayers of the People.

Saturday, May 30

In a message to the Duke community President Price wrote:

"This week, as the United States passed the grim milestone of 100,000 lives lost to the coronavirus, the horrifying death of George Floyd has drawn national attention to fundamental and systematic disparities of justice in our nation. The events in Minneapolis have occurred on the heels of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the shooting of Breonna Taylor and in the context of the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color, including here in Durham. For many people at Duke and elsewhere, the pain, trauma and sense of hopelessness is overwhelming."

Read the full statement.

Friday, May 29

In his Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul writes, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good,” (12:9) and later in the same chapter, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (12:15).

Today the Chapel seeks to love genuinely by weeping for, and with, those who weep. Today we mourn with the many—the friends, family, and loved ones of the over 100,000 people in the United States who have died from Covid-19.

Today we also weep for the one—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery—and with the communities of color who mourn deeply because yet again they are unable to breathe.

Lord, teach us to let our love be genuine by weeping with those who weep, hating what is evil, and holding to what is good.